Three young children aged three, five and ten were killed on Monday afternoon in Doornfontein, Joburg, after a wall in an abandoned warehouse building in which they were living collapsed. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/ANA

JOHANNESBURG - Joburg Mayor Herman Mashaba on Monday, said that the children killed in a wall collapse of an abandoned building in the inner city were playing when the accident happened.

Three young children died and two others were rushed to hospital on Monday after a wall in an abandoned warehouse building in which they were living collapsed around 12.30pm on the corner of Davis Street and Rockey Street in Doornfontein in downtown Johannesburg.

The three deceased were aged three, five and 10, while the two injured children were aged five and six. They were declared dead on the scene.

"Two girls ages three, five, and a 10 year-old boy were playing on the pavement outside the building when one of the walls collapsed on them. Fire fighters are still unclear of what caused the collapse but speculate that the lack of maintenance and aged structure of the building resulted in the collapse," Mashaba said. 

"The building was occupied by mostly foreign nationals who had built shacks inside the premises. About 30 families have been safely removed from the building and the Department of Public Safety's Disaster Management team are assisting the displaced."

Mashaba, who extended his condolences to the families of the deceased children, said that firefighters will be knocking down the rest of the building to ensure that it does not collapse any further.

He added that there were far too many residents living in derelict and unsafe buildings and the slum-like conditions infringed on their right to dignity.

"Tragically, there are hundreds of derelict buildings in the inner city of Johannesburg. Some of these properties have been abandoned and owners cannot be traced. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the city to ensure compliance with applicable by-laws, which in turn contributes to the degradation of the urban environment," Mashaba said.

"On 26 February 2018, I wrote to the former minister of public works, Mr Nathi Nhleko, to request that an agreement be concluded with the department of public works, in which the department will name the city as its nominee for the transfer of these abandoned properties in Johannesburg. 

"To date, I have not heard back from the former or current minister, Mr Thulas Nxesi."

Mashaba said that he had sent a follow-up letter to Nxesi on Monday morning before the tragedy, imploring that his department and the city work together in the best interests of residents.

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"It is vital that the different spheres of government work together with civil society and other stakeholders to ensure that we sustainably address the human crisis occurring in the inner city of Johannesburg. In doing so we can help to prevent such tragedies from reoccurring," Mashaba said.

Member of mayoral committee (MMC) for public safety, Michael Sun meanwhile, also said that he was aggrieved by the death of such innocent young lives. 

"This incident is a devastating tragedy. Our Disaster Management team are on site and will be assisting the displaced with food, clothing, blankets and temporary accommodation," Sun said.

The owner of the building also arrived at the scene to see the damage and stated that the reason for the lack of maintenance was due to the dispute that has been going on regarding the rightful owner of the building.

 African News Agency/ANA